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Would choosing Clarke be blowing smoke into the eyes of the membership?

July 21st, 2005

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    Can the veteran Europhile make it in a party of Europhobes?

To many of his supporters Ken Clarke’s greatest strength is that like on the EU, or his link with a tobacco company the former Chancellor has never been prepared to tone down his positions in order win political popularity. What a contrast, they say, with Tony Blair and New Labour.

On the face of it the moves to give a bigger role to Tory MPs in the leadership selection process should give a boost the man who was roundly turned down by the party membership in the 2001 ballot that saw IDS get elected. In the betting his price has tightened a touch but the implied probability that this represents is still less than 5%.

    For even if the party at large does accept the rule changes Clarke still has a mountain to climb.

His views on the EU remained solid during his previous leadership bids and clearly will not be compromised to help his current campaign. In a party that has become so opposed to the EU it is hard to envisage how someone with Ken Clarke’s views could make it whatever the process.

Europe, as we saw in the reaction of Tories to Edward Heath’s death, is such a deep issue issue that to outsiders it seems to have become more important than regaining power. We have no reason to doubt the hostility contained in the stream of postings from Tory activists on the site in the past weeks and from these it’s clear that Ken Clarke does not stand an earthly.

    Tory MPs are not going to seize the decision-making process from the membership at large only to foist on them a leader who appears to be so unacceptable to them.

From a non-Tory perspective the attitude to Ken Clarke seems to be some sort of death wish. He is the one contender who has the potential to bring old supporters back and attract in new groups. His strength of character and resolution in sticking to unpopular positions make him a good match for both Tony Blair and for Gordon Brown – if and when the Chancellor does get the top job.

MY BETTING. A couple on months ago I had a spread-bet on Ken Clarke with Binary Bet but got out at a big profit after seeing how Tories on the site viewed his chances. Now I’ve a BUY spread on David Cameron and a SELL one on David Davis which I’m looking to cash in at a profit as sentiment changes on the leading contenders. In this way you can make money on the contest even before the decision has been made.

Mike Smithson






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